A SURGICAL SUPPLY company has contracted to buy the former Meadowbrook Elementary School in Bowie for office and warehouse space after half a dozen meetings with neighborhood residents and city officials, who say they support the move.

Surgical Specialties Instrument Co. Inc. has contracted to buy the 47,000-square-foot school and 10.3-acre lot for $550,000, said Careen Wallace, senior planner for the county. The company agreed to several conditions requested by area residents, including a limit on the number of trucks allowed at the site, before requesting a special exception permit from the county last week. Wallace said a hearing examiner has heard the case and will make a decision shortly that will be final, unless Bowie appeals it to the County Council.

Bowie, an older community in northern Prince George's County, has seen five schools close in as many years -- a situation common to many communities as the population of school-age children declines nationally. And as has been the situation in many of these communities, Bowie and county planners have had to decide how best to use abandoned schools in older residential neighborhoods.

"A person who buys a house next to a field runs the risk that the field might be developed," said Bowie city planner James M. Cronk. "People buy a house next to a school believing that it will be a school forever. Therefore, you have to take more care when you change the use of a school than you do for a new development."

Meadowbrook, like all Bowie's public schools, belongs to the county, but planners say local communities have a lot of say in the fate of abandoned schools. Some of these schools are kept in the public domain in case the school-age population reverses its downward slide and the buildings are needed for schools once again. The county sells others to private developers after determining that the impact of the new use on the community will be slight.

HOWARD COUNTY led Maryland last year in the use of tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds to finance economic development, even though the county ranks sixth in population and next to last in size, according to county and state officials.

Overall, the county approved $180 million in bonds in 1984 to provide low-cost financing for a range of projects. Of that amount, $57 million has been allocated since last July when Congress limited the use of tax-exempt bonds by local governments for economic development. The bonds, know as IRBs for short, have become a highly popular means of providing low-cost financing because they typically are sold at interest rates 20 to 25 percent below market rates. Congress took steps to curb their use because of concern about the loss of tax revenues.

Under a state allocation plan, the county was initially limited to issuing $8.9 million in bonds, but it was able to exceed that amount because the state redistributed allocations that were not fully used by other counties.

A $36 MILLION complex of stores, restaurants and town houses could hold the key to revitalization efforts in Salisbury, Md., developers say.

Columbia developer Robert A. Fox wants to build the 22-acre Wicomico River complex because he thinks Salisbury "has everything going for it. It has the college Salisbury State , the hospital Peninsula General and the roads U.S. 13 and U.S. 50 ."

But some community leaders doubt the town could sustain such a massive project.

"This is always the reaction," Fox said. The riverfront development "will make the town more interesting and give people more reason to come. It is a marvelous city to work with. All it lacks is the physical plant."

Salisbury's negotiating team will meet with the company this month to discuss the project, and members hope they can reach an agreement by early March. The Town Council still would need to approve the project.

If the council approves the project, one of the principal partners would be Walter Cronkite, the former CBS anchorman who retains business interests in Annapolis and the Eastern Shore. The other partner in the venture would be the director of the Waterway Guide, which publishes nautical guides and charts.

The town's redevelopment effort began five years ago when Salisbury became the first area in Maryland to seek the help of a Regional-Urban Design Assistance Team.

The group of architectural experts conducted a study of the community and drafted a plan for the renovation of the Eastern Shore town.

With plan in hand, the town advertised for the redevelopment of the waterfront, but the only response came from Robert A. Fox Co.

PERSONNEL FILE . . . The District of Columbia Builders Association has elected Howard Michnick as its president for 1985. Michnick has been active in residential and commercial development here since 1952. Other new officers are: Ronald J. Bruck, first vice president; Steven A. Grigg, second vice president; Michael J. Hellyer, secretary; and Frank Calcara, treasurer. Grigg, vice president of Blake Construction, also was elected president of the Commercial Industrial Institutional Council of Washington . . . The Northern Virginia Builders Association has installed its officers for this year. The new president of the association is F. Gary Garczynski, head of Signature Communities, which specializes in town house and condominium development. Serving with him are: Fulton R. (Sandy) Gordon III of Gordon Builders and Developers Inc., first vice president; Robert C. Wilcox of Calvert Co. Inc., vice president; Ray F. Smith Jr. of Sequoia Building Corp., treasurer; and Sidney O. Dewberry of Dewberry & Davis, secretary. William L. Berry of William L. Berry and Co. Inc. is immediate past president . . . Richard E. Hollander has been promoted to senior vice president at Cushman & Wakefield, and will be responsible for the firm's newly established suburban office in Tysons Corner . . . Michael S. Carliner, formerly of Chase Econometrics, and Douglas B. Diamond, formerly a tax economist with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, have joined the National Association of Home Builders.

IN THE BUSINESS . . . Sales of existing homes in Maryland rose 4.8 percent in the third quarter of 1984 from the same period a year earlier, the Maryland Association of Realtors notes. Sales ran at a seasonally adjusted rate of 65,300 units, the assocation said . . . Sales in Northern Virginia slipped 10 percent in November from November 1983, but the average price climbed 8 percent to $109,200, according to the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors . . . The Capitol Hill Brokers Council is sponsoring an all-day seminar Wednesday on the effect of zoning on real estate sales. For information, call La Salle Caron at 547-1228.